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Could Dairy-Free Diet Help Clear Your Complexion?

According to research, people following a dairy-free diet are less prone to acne. Could this approach benefit your complexion?

People used to classify acne as an adolescent condition. They blamed surging hormones, haphazard hygiene or junk food in the diet for stubborn pimples. Dermatologists, on the other hand, did not agree with this assessment. They knew that acne could continue well into adulthood, and they doubted that diet had much to do with it. Now, they are beginning to re-evaluating their stance and some are starting to recommend a dairy-free diet to their patients. 

Could a Dairy-Free Diet Help Your Skin?

Q. After years of treatment by a dermatologist for persistent acne, my daughter went to a naturopath who advised her to stop consuming dairy products. Within a few weeks, her skin was perfect.

A. For decades, dermatologists maintained that diet didn’t matter with regards to acne. They preferred to treat pimples with antibiotics because the drugs produced predictably positive results.

Now, however, many doctors are trying to limit the use of antibiotic pills for this condition (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Feb. 2019).  There is growing recognition that long-term use of antibiotics can alter the bacterial balance (microbiome) of the body.

High-Dairy Diet Linked to Acne:

Scientists have found that your daughter’s experience is not unusual. A diet rich in dairy products appears to make young people more susceptible to acne (Nutrients, Aug. 9, 2018). Avoiding milk as well as food with a high glycemic index can be helpful. Foods with a high glycemic index are quickly broken down into sugar and usually contain refined grains.

Scientists are still learning about this connection. One study showed a strong association between consumption of low-fat or skim milk products and acne (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Aug. 2016). However, in a study they conducted in Kabul, Afghanistan, scientists found a link between whole-fat dairy products and blemishes (Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, July 1, 2019). Apparently, we need more basic research to determine whether and how a dairy-free diet can lead to clear skin.

Learn More:

To learn more about the anti-acne diet as well as home remedies and pharmaceuticals for clear skin, you may wish to consult our eGuide to Acne Solutions. For more information on selecting a healthful diet, you may find our book Recipes & Remedies from The People’s Pharmacy helpful.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Barbieri JS et al, "Approaches to limit systemic antibiotic use in acne: Systemic alternatives, emerging topical therapies, dietary modification, and laser and light-based treatments." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Feb. 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaad.2018.09.055
  • Juhl CR et al, "Dairy intake and acne vulgaris: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 78,529 children, adolescents, and young adults." Nutrients, Aug. 9, 2018. DOI: 10.3390/nu10081049
  • LaRosa CL et al, "Consumption of dairy in teenagers with and without acne." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Aug. 2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaad.2016.04.030
  • Aalemi AK et al, "Dairy consumption and acne: A case control study in Kabul, Afghanistan." Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, July 1, 2019. DOI: 10.2147/CCID.S195191
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